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How Democrats should lead America

December 2, 2020
In The News

Americans are anxious. Headlines scream: “GOP Plan to Destroy Biden Presidency,” ”Dems Deeply Divided” and other dispiriting headlines before Joe Biden even repeats the Oath of Office.

Will Mitch McConnell try and block Biden’s every move? Have Democrats lost too many House seats? Will the disagreements between progressive and moderate factions within the Democratic caucus hinder the Biden agenda?

Pay no attention to the handwringing. We’ve got this. Biden won. Democrats defeated an incumbent president for the first time since 1992. Democrats control the House and have a chance to lead the Senate with a sweep in the January Georgia Senate runoffs.

So, where do we go from here? Democratic members of Congress are all well aware of our many differences, but we are more united than divided in our resolve to support Biden’s pledge to “build back better.”

Yes, of course, the party has always had deep divisions. It is in our DNA. A hundred years ago, Will Rogers said: “I do not belong to any organized political party — I’m a Democrat.”

But with full knowledge of those divisions, we’re capable of pulling together under a big tent. Remember those Democratic presidential primaries with 27 candidates? Yet, with hard work, compromise and unity of spirit, Democrats of all ideologies came together to elect Biden president.

Now, with our nation facing unprecedented challenges, Democrats do not have the luxury of indulging in an ideological war. The urgency of passing comprehensive coronavirus relief bills in the new Congress, delivering immediate economic relief to unemployed workers, small businesses, hospitals and state and local government will be paramount. That should deter internal Democratic Party struggles.

With a setback or two in Georgia in January, Republicans will maintain control over the Senate. And even if we win it, margins will be slim. Both parties will have to work together. People will demand it.

Fortunately, Biden is exactly the right person in the right place at the right time. He is the leader we need to bridge the divide not only among the Democratic Caucus but across the aisle.

He believes deeply that the solution to any problem can be crafted by compromise and consensus. He brings with him 40 years of friendship, familiarity and fellowship on the Hill.

For eight years, Biden was the White House’s point man in Congress. When negotiations stalled, President Obama could be heard saying: “Let’s call Joe.” Biden was dubbed “the McConnell whisperer.”

When Biden left the Senate, McConnell called him as “a real friend...a trusted partner.”

I am not at all discounting McConnell’s years of poison partisanship, his infamous pledge to “make Obama a one-term president,” or his cruel and deliberate attempt to sabotage any hope of COVID relief this year. But if there is any Democrat alive today who can find a way to work with him, that person is Joe Biden.

Biden, a longtime small-state senator, explains his approach this way: “We believe in respecting one another — because we know we’ll run into each other at the grocery store or church. We see one another as whole people, bigger than politics, each just trying to build a better life for our kids.”

We need a lot more of that attitude in Washington.

More important, Biden knows how to win. Politics is a contact sport. The GOP roughed up Bill Clinton and Democrats did the same to George W. Bush. But a leader like Biden, who understands politics, policy and people will know how to get things done.

Even if the halls of Congress are so filled with toxic smoke that it sometimes becomes impossible for members of Congress to see their better selves, Biden has the skills to help get us through this. He will help the new Congress commit itself, above all else, to find common ground.

I am a proud member and vice-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. We are a bipartisan group in the House that includes 50 members, equally divided between both parties, who seek to foster bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues.

It is an approach we have been quietly working to extend to the Senate — as evidenced in the introduction of a bipartisan stimulus proposal that has the support of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

As we move forward, we will be aided by the one dozen Republican senators who served with Biden in the Senate. Several of them have said they will not seek re-election and therefore will be free from Trump’s midnight tweets, threats of primaries or right-wing retribution. They can finally vote their conscience.

As President John F. Kennedy said: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

Suozzi represents parts of Queens and the North Shore of Long Island in the U.S. House.